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Probe Sought in Allegations of Harassment at Potential Parent-Trigger School

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The Orange County, Calif., District Attorney's Office has been contacted twice since November to review claims that parents seeking to use the state's so-called parent-trigger law to convert an Anaheim elementary school into a charter are being harassed and intimidated.

Former State Sen. Gloria Romero, who co-authored the state's parent-trigger law, asked the district attorney's office to examine whether a letter and a robocall from Anaheim City School District Superintendent Linda Wagner was an improper use of public funds, according to a Dec. 18 story in the Orange County Register. Romero's Center for Parent Empowerment is advising parents involved in the petition drive at the Anaheim school.

The newspaper reports that Sen. Bob Huff, a co-author of California's parent-trigger law, also asked the district attorney's office in November to investigate claims that parents gathering petitions were being intimidated.

A group of parents whose students attend Palm Lane Elementary are attempting to gather enough signatures to force the district to transform the school into a charter. Under California's Parent Empowerment Act, parents whose children attend chronically underperforming schools can force districts to make sweeping changes, including replacing staff and transforming the school into a charter.

Wagner said in an email to the newspaper that the district only cautioned parents to read the petitions carefully. But, according to the newspaper, the superintendent's letter also mentions that petitioners are being compensated and that free iPads and tutoring are being promised in exchange for signatures on the petitions.

The Center for Parent Empowerment, according to Orange County Register, is paying a community organizer to work with parents, much like the nonprofit group Parent Revolution did while working with parents in Adelanto, Calif., where Desert Trails Elementary School was transformed into a charter using the parent-trigger law in 2013. The Center for Parent Empowerment was established by Romero this year to help parents understand their rights under the state's parent-trigger law. (In the story, the community organizer denies the district's claims that petitioners are being promised free services and goods.)

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